MCPS Board of Education Upholds Decision to Maintain 6-Feet Physical Distancing and A/B Weeks

Heather Jauquet

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, the Montgomery County Board of Education met and decided that they would KEEP a 6-foot physical distancing protocol AND maintain the current A/B schedule for upper grades much to the relief of educators across MCPS.

Both Superintendent, Dr. Jack Smith, and Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Monfia McKnight addressed parents’ demands that school be open. He and Dr. McKnight responded that schools have been open.

Schools have been open since August 2020 and have been opened for in-person learning since March 1, 2021.

(Slide presented at Board of Education meeting)

There have been requests (i.e. demands) that MCPS collapse the A/B model of instruction that is being used for 4th through 12th graders.

(Slide presented at Board of Education Meeting)

The Montgomery County Board of Education shared the implications of collapsing the A/B model:

  • New schedules would need to be created for returning upper grade students
  • Students would receive new teacher assignments
  • More staff would be needed for instruction, transition, and lunch/recess times

According to Dr. Smith, he cannot recommend to the BOE to try to collapse the A/B because “The disruption to the students’ experience is too great. In terms of changing schedules, changing teachers, changing peers. I don’t see that as a positive thing to our students overall.”

"The disruption to the students' experience is too great. In terms of changing schedules, changing teachers, changing peers. I don't see that as a positve thing to our students overall." Dr. Jack Smith, MCPS Superintendent

Mrs. O’Neill commented that the logistics are like a “1,000-piece puzzle at every school” and that it’s a “monumental task.”

Things to be taken into consideration when discussing that the school system collapses the A/B alternate weeks that are currently taking place for upper grades:

  • Number of in-person students
  • Number of teachers who continue teaching from home
  • Number of students who opted to remain virtual.

There are many things to factor in to make this change this late in the school year. Both Ms. Smondrowski and Ms. Harris questioned the efficacy of maintaining the Wednesdays and the alternate schedules. Ms. Harris brought up that students have been learning in isolation for over a year.

"How do you decide to send 90,000 students back when their parents opted for them to stay home?"--President of Montgomery County Baord of Education, Ms. Brenda Wolff

Both fail to remember that 90,000 students have parents who have opted for them to stay in the virtual model. President of the Montgomery County Board of Education, Ms. Brenda Wolff asked, “How do you decide to send 90,000 students back when their parents opted for them to stay home?” The answer is you can’t.

Parents were given a survey in November and again at the end of February to choose whether or not their child(ren) would return to school in person. While there is a waitlist for some schools to return in-person learning only 3/4s of 1% of all schools have a waitlist. Over 80% of MCPS schools have anywhere between 0 to 9 students are requesting to be in-person. According to Superintendent, Dr. Smith, schools are working with families on a classroom by classroom basis to get those students off the waitlist and into the classroom where there is room.

As a mother of four students attending four different MCPS schools in grades kindergarten through 9, it is asking a lot of teachers and students to once again change expectations and structure to accommodate the requests that schools be open 5 days a week without A/B schedules now. The amount of work to reschedule students and assign them to new teachers is staggering. There is simply not enough time with the fourth quarter already underway to make this decision.

At this time the Board of Education has chosen to maintain the A/B weeks to safely allow those students who wish to return to the classroom.

While the BOE determined to keep the status quo, it is appreciated that they are looking ahead to the future and what staff, parents, and students can expect in the fall.

They are looking to the fall and expect to have everybody in school five days a week, every week. There will also be a virtual academy that will provide for those students who wish to remain with their online learning.

What do you think? Is it feasible for MCPS to consider changing the current structure to fit the demands of parents who want their children in the building 5 days a week, every week between now and the end of the school year? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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